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Need to Know: Backup running back by committee for the Redskins?

Apr 1, 2015, 5:19 AM EDT

Chris-Thompson-TD-vs.-Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 1, 29 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from Twitter:

With running back Roy Helu gone in free agency, the Redskins have a large hole to fill. Last year Alfred Morris played 616 snaps and Helu played 382. Silas Redd (55 snaps) and Chris Thompson (31) both played sparingly and mostly in either garbage time or late in the season when the Redskins were playing out the string.

There was some contact between Justin Forsett and the Redskins during the free agency period last month but nothing serious developed. We don’t know if the Redskins were looking at him as a potential Helu replacement or as someone who would be in a job-sharing situation with Morris. We’ll never know because the Ravens brought back their 2014 leading rusher a few days into free agency with a three-year, $9 million contract.

For the third-down role I think it’s pretty obvious that you want a player who can catch the ball, which Forsett can do (44 receptions in 2014, 6.4 yards/rec.). But Jay Gruden might want a player who is more explosive than Forsett.

Let me put forward a possibility. Helu really filled two roles. His major role was third-down back. His lesser role was to take over for Morris on the rare occasions when the starter was either banged up or in need of a rest. I think that two different backs could fill that one role.

Speaking to the media in Phoenix last week, Gruden indicated that Chris Thompson might get the first shot at Helu’s third-down duties. The coach likes the third-year player’s speed and he hopes that Thompson can “give us a little jolt back there”.

But when Morris is in need of a series or two off per game it could be Silas Redd, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, getting some carries. Redd was a rare rookie in that he impressed both the coaching staff and the players with his knowledge and preparation. That could get rewarded with several dozen carries this year, many of them with the game on the line.

I could also see Gruden experimenting with his backs. Maybe he could give Thompson some snaps on first and second downs and throw Redd an occasional swing pass on third down to see what they can do.

There is always the possibility that the Redskins will pick up someone in the draft, which would reset the whole picture here. But as it stands right now I think you can look for Thompson on most third downs and some more meaningful carries for Redd.

Timeline

—It’s been 94 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 165 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 19; 2015 NFL Draft 29; Redskins training camp starts 120

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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  1. Skulb - Apr 1, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    I really liked Roy on third downs. But Redd seemed very promising when he was given a chance last year so I don`t think he`d necessarily be a downgrade. I guess it depends on how he develops next season if he is given a bigger role. Are there any big arguments against Redd moving up to fill the gap left by Helu?

  2. tralfaz10 - Apr 1, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    I was at the Jacksonville game last season when the game was out of hand and Silas Redd looked great getting an extended look. Going for 41 yards on 8 carries including a 14 yard rumble for a touchdown on fourth down. I know it was Jacksonville, but he had that burst you want to see. I am all for Silas Redd as a backup.

    • jpa - Apr 2, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      Agreed, Silas Redd looked great when he played.

  3. sidepull - Apr 1, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    I think they currently have a nice group of running backs and I know some don’t count DY but DY can catch the football. He can block and he is a necessary part of that offense. Either way they go, I think they are set at RB and I expect they will take a quick, 3rd down back in the draft that has pass catching abilities. The bigger issue is will Gruden stick with the run? You can have great backs but you have to let them pound the ball.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Apr 1, 2015 at 7:48 AM

      Mixed feelings on that. Yes, we’ve got an identity as a running team, and a good back in Morris to do it.

      But our O.L. needs work…save for T.Will, it’s a bunch of guys picked for zone-blocking. Now they’re becoming old and inefficient at that, too. (Call me underwhelmed by the Sean Lauvao acquisition.)

      Meanwhile, thanks to the rule changes, it’s more of a passing league than ever. And we’ve got a ton of money tied up in our receiving corp.
      ~

    • troylok - Apr 1, 2015 at 7:55 AM

      Sidepull, right with you there. I’d like to see Young get a few more swing passes this year. He’s a load to bring down and it might force a defense to pull their linebackers a little east to west. As for Gruden sticking with the run, I don’t think we will see much improvement there. This is a pass first offense that uses the run as a diversion. It’s too bad Morris isn’t a better receiver because I think he would get the ball a lot more on first and second downs. I’m thinking Gruden would like a back who is more like Brian Westbrook was for the Eagles or Roger Craig with the 49’ers. I think they were both great players but those guys were, in a sense, receivers that sometimes ran the ball. Madden used to say that the west coast offense used the short passing game like a running game and I can see Gruden’s desire to run that kind of offense.

  4. renhoekk2 - Apr 1, 2015 at 10:48 AM

    I think they’ll add some guys later in the draft or UDFA. You need to in order to get through camp and preseason. Unless they want competition for Morris. Then they can take a guy at any point from the 2nd round on.

  5. mr.moneylover - Apr 1, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    I just took a look at the depth chart its actually not as bad as ppl think…question should be will the best player actually beat out a starter or a backup…the running back group just got more interesting with the signing of Michael hill and jordan campbell showed some potential in year training camp jay gruden really like him…to me my opinion is that chris Thompson or silas redd havent show me enough to were I say they both will make the 53 man roster…chris Thompson show good things but can he actually stay healthy for most of the season??? But when I think of the power run scheme when you gotta run threw that window fast before it close and make ppl miss in space or run ppl over I think Chris Thompson and alfred morris can do really good in that scheme…last year we seen alfred try to find the window so he can run down field this year with new members of the offensive line he will get to the second level and start running ppl over again like he use to back in 2012

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